Monday, January 19, 2015

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 25, 2015

First Reading Commentary
According to the Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus, the circumference of the city of Nineveh was 480 stadia; one stadia measures about 607 feet.  Another Greek historian, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, estimated 150 stadia to be a day’s journey on foot.  This would concur with this Reading’s claim that Nineveh was an enormously large city.”  Jonah, therefore, walked about 150 stadia announcing: “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” 

Compare this Reading with this weekend’s Gospel and what comes to mind is the immediate and favorable response to God.  In the Gospel, Simon, Andrew, James and John drop everything when Jesus calls them.  In this First Reading, after Jonah’s proclamation, the people of Nineveh believed the words of God spoken through Jonah and “proclaimed a fast” and “put on sackcloth.”  Fortunately, as revealed in this Reading, godless ways are not etched in stone.  God, in His loving mercy offers the opportunity for repentance. 

Be honest with yourself: if you knew that you were not in a state of grace, how quickly would you run to the confessional?  In the bigger picture, how important is our Lord in your life?  Is He the Center of it and everything points to Him or does He end up sandwiched between everything and you‘ll get to Him when you have time?  Our ability to answer these types of questions honestly and our willingness to react quickly when our relationship with God is not one of total commitment will help us to grow in the spiritual life and build a stronger bond with our Lord. 

The final verse of this Reading is a bit prophetic and intimates a little something about God’s future plans for humanity.  This story takes place about 750 years before the birth of Jesus and yet God shows mercy to the people of Nineveh. This is significant in a pre-Christian era because the inhabitants of Nineveh were Gentiles.

Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul here is trying to create a sense of urgency.  He is teaching that all things in this life, good or bad, will soon pass away.  Do not feel a sense of security with worldly possessions, nor feel overwhelmed and on a sinking ship in the midst of great suffering.  The joys and pains of this life are temporary and will eventually give way to eternal bliss.  This is not an exercise on how to be prepared for eternal life; it is actually a lesson on how to be happy in this life. 

Possessing an undying passion for our Lord translates into an appreciation for the gifts of this life without having an obsession for them.  Moreover, an ardent zeal for Jesus overcomes a defeatist attitude in times of suffering.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads: “All Christ’s faithful are to direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty” (CCC 2545).   

Gospel Commentary
John’s arrest seems to be sort of a stepping aside and allowing Jesus to take over.  In other words, Jesus did not begin to proclaim “the Gospel of God” until John had finished preparing the way for Him. 

Christ’s first words recorded in this Gospel account are: “This is the time of fulfillment.”  The religious practices and the prophecies of the Old Testament all pointed to a fulfillment; and as Jesus proclaims, the time for fulfillment has come, meaning that He is the fulfillment.  Saint John the Baptist, then, is a metaphoric doorway that departs the Old Testament and enters the New Testament.  John, like the prophets of old, pointed towards a reality or fulfillment; but John, unlike the others, was not only able to point to the Messiah but was also able to see Him.  John’s arrest, then, although very real physically, on a spiritual level says, “Lord, I’ve done all I can do; but I am still incarcerated until You set me free.”  This is in line with what was prophesied in Isaiah: “To preach a release to the captives and deliverance to them that are shut up” (Isaiah 61:1). 

The statement, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” is one of those well-known biblical verses whose meaning is explored by few people.  It can be dissected and thus reflect several things.  First, the Kingdom of God being at hand is the Lord’s existing and effective reign over His people.  Secondly, it is our response to Him, or better stated, our obedience to Him.  Finally, it reflects our Savior’s triumph over evil, especially emphasizing His victory over death. 

In this Gospel we see the calling of the first disciples and their immediate response was to follow Jesus.  They were fishermen, and so, it can be said figuratively that many people in life are fishing for something that will ultimately add to their level of happiness, e.g., the fountain of youth, material wealth, that magic pill or whatever else is being sold on those half-hour infomercials.  These first disciples, however, teach us that what can be gathered, accumulated or stored up is not the answer to what is lacking.  Abandonment is the key.  It’s an emptying of ourselves in order to allow Christ to fill us; or as John the Baptist said: “He [Christ] must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  Far too many are trying to mend their broken nets, so to speak, in order to catch something that will bring them happiness.  A life of fulfillment only comes, however, when Christ’s call to discipleship is answered affirmatively.